Form and Function: The Tribally Inspired Design of Ingrid Donat

Ingrid Donat.

Ingrid Donat. Courtesy Carpenters Workshop Gallery

Even though she counts Brad Pitt and interiors titan Peter Marino among her collectors, this is actually Ingrid Donat’s first gallery show in New York City in eight years.

“It’s a curiosity,” she says, indicating a bronze piece on display at Carpenters’ Workshop Gallery’s airy penthouse space in Midtown with a secret chamber. The space doesn’t feel like a white walled gallery at all, with Donat’s work both being shown and inviting use.

She explains how, despite her work being forged in bronze (which, it turns out, is quite heavy), she wanted the drawers to close easily, with the light touch of one finger.

“I said ‘try and find a solution for this,’” to her assistant. The resulting mechanism uses pieces similar to those in a watch.

Donat designs the work and signs off on a wooden prototype before it is fabricated in a foundry, she explained. After she approves the bones, she adds patina and embellishment. Much of the intricate detailing is inspired by tribal artwork and scarification, and done in leather and wax.

“I was born with this interest,” she says of her inspirations. “You know how they do it?” she asks. “They open [the skin], put ashes,” in the wounds. “The burning… it’s awful. C’est tres violent,” she says, reverting to her native tongue inadvertently.

The patina is created usually with acid and pigment, and Donat is very involved in each step of the application, even when relying on one of her many fabricators or her assistant, she said.

A Donat chest.

A Donat chest. Courtesy Carpenters Workshop Gallery

Donat got her start when she asked her friend and close associate Diego Giacometti to make a functional work for her. His response? “Do it by yourself you are the only one who is doing furniture in bronze,” she says. A young mother pregnant with her second child, it was not a time most would have embarked on an artistic career. Nonetheless, she began making her own furniture and hasn’t looked back since.

She characterizes her work as bringing a feminine element to bronze work, which feels like an almost inherently male medium. “It’s very difficult to do something so thin in bronze,” she says, but “the detail is what’s important” and so she insists on it. The trope of pregnancy also recurs through her work, with subtle curves in every single piece.

She moved over to Carpenters Workshop from Barry Friedman—an easy call since Carpenters is owned by her son Julian. The gallery supports her fully in realizing her visions, she said, and she’s very happy to be free of all aspects of the business side, “libre,” she says, repeatedly.

Donat’s work is on display at Carpenters’ Workshop Gallery through December 17.

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